My very first real reggae concert was Gregory Isaacs at Reggae Sunsplash 1985, at the now defunct Noorderligt venue in Tilburg, in the south of Holland. It was a big deal for my mates Nicolai, Gerwin and me, we made a nice little bicycle race of it. Etten-Leur – Tilburg, I think we did it in little under two hours. Which isn’t that fast, come to think of it. Doing that thing pro cyclists do when they’re speeding, taking turns at the front and all that. When we got to Tilburg we went to Nicolai’s grandparents’ house, because that’s where we were going to spend the night after the gig. They were very nice people, we got drinks and sandwiches while we were sweating it out.
Couldn’t really wait to get to the Noorderligt, though. So we arrived there hours before the gig was on. When we parked our bikes, we saw Sly & Robbie, Nambo Robinson the trombonist and one of the background singers sitting outside the venue, eating peanuts and chatting. I almost shat myself.
Later when we got in we were psyched. I remember the DJ playing Barrington Levy‘s “Here I Come” and everybody dancing and I’ll never forget the way the bass took possession of my body. That has never changed since. And then that smell of fireweed, oh man.
Paul Blake & The Blood Fire Posse were the support act and Sly & Robbie‘s Taxi Gang accompanying The Cool Ruler. And there he was, all dressed in white, with a white hat on his head in a cloud of smoke from the huge spliff hanging from his lips. Suave! Goddamn he was one suave fucker!
I have a tape somewhere, I’ll look it up and put it online, it’s a pretty good recording the VPRO Radio did of that gig. Or maybe it was the one in Amsterdam. I know that tape by heart.
A couple of years ago he came to the venue I was working at at the time, in Antwerp, Belgium. He said some of the exact same things during and between the songs as he had done 23 years before. It was weird.
Still, the man has been one of my heroes ever since that Tilburg gig. The King of Lovers Rock has left the building today. It’s a sad day.
Gregory Isaacs – My Number One
side a: My Number One
side b: Version
Pretty bad re-press of the original from the seventies (1977?). Fantastic tune though.